Beauty + Substance: Mane Salon

We came into contact with Mane Salon by way of one of their master colorists, Will Harries. In one of those intricate twists and turns of events that can only be explained by the grander schemes of the universe, we found ourselves standing outside of a salon that we had never heard of, one Thursday morning, an hour before it opened.

Let’s back up a little bit.

A few years prior, I met Will while working for another beauty publication. Wella had just introduced a new color product and their PR company was kind enough to set me up at a very swanky salon in downtown Chicago to try it out for myself. Will, an educator for Wella, arrived to my appointment fresh from the airport and ready to spread the good word of Wella, while at the same time completely transforming my sad, dishwater-blonde outgrowth into an incredibly lustrous, rich coffee brown. Will was delightful, the results were astounding and I left the salon thoroughly impressed. Of course with my hair, but mostly with Will.

Fast forward to the early launch days of Industrie. We were hard at work scouring the area for talented stylists to feature and distinctive salons to shoot. Will came to mind immediately, and I had fortunately hung onto his business card. We got in contact, set, canceled, reset and cancelled again a few dates for a photoshoot (ah, the difficulties of appointment booking!) and finally, several months later, we were able to get something on the books.

Will is a long-time educator for Wella and you can immediately see why. He loves it. Despite the length of time between our first meeting and this last one, his passion and enthusiasm remains completely undiminished. That kind of endurance is only exhibited by someone who has found their true calling, their niche, their place to call home in the universe and have settled in happily to it. Will had bounced from salon to salon in the time between our visits, finally finding his perfect “work home,” ironically, a few months before learning of an opportunity out of state. The day of our photo shoot was actually two days after Will’s last working day at Mane Salon. A true testament to a wonderful salon/stylist relationship, the owners were more than happy to host us despite the fact that Will was technically no longer a member of their staff.

Upon entering Mane, I could immediately see why Will was loathing to leave. Simply put, the space is stunning. It’s the kind of salon that you could live in. With an incredible attention to detail, the space exudes a sort of rustic luxury. Nick Waraksa, who co-owns the salon with his wife Niko and a third partner, Sylvia, explained that the design of the salon directly reflects the philosophy behind it. The overall feel of the salon, the culmination of painstaking attention paid to every minute detail, he explained, was his highest priority.

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Beauty is ingrained in our identity—the idea of social beauty, natural beauty. When you think about it, there is no meaning to beauty in nature. Animals don’t recognize it—it comes from belonging to an advanced social structure. Basically, we wanted to show a hybrid of raw, natural beauty and push it to modern levels.

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And push it, they did. Nick, Niko and their team created an incredible environment. From rough hewn mirrors and shelving, to exposed copper pipes and ornate light fixtures, everything feels expensive without feeling pretentious. The entire space is really a play on taking a different perspective. Luxury and quality are anything but uptight at Mane. You feel comfortable, like you belong and you always have. The floors are sourced from reclaimed horse fencing, a fact that Waraksa seems particularly proud of because, “You know, it’s the whole play on ‘mane.’ Our logo is this incredible, ornate lion head and it’s reflected down onto this rough-looking floor that represents another animal with a mane.”

You get a sense that the staff at Mane all have a little bit of an added layer and a story to them. Everyone is friendly and beautiful, but they also seem to be looking a little deeper at life and beauty. They seem to not only care about the results of their work, but the feelings that it produces and the message that it sends.

Mane is a relatively new salon, celebrating it’s second year this November. We asked Nick to what he attributes the salon’s success, and while he cited the caliber of his team’s work and the common vision shared by all, he seemed to be thinking while he responded. “You know, it’s really all about the story. People love a great story. They want a story that’s genuine, not a superficial ‘I look better than you’ story. We have a genuine respect for natural beauty and a passion to discover it in a new way.”

By balancing beauty and substance, Nick, Niko, Sylvia and their team have created a unique space that offers their clients a new perspective. While relaxing in the knowledge that the staff is highly-trained and beyond capable of handling their new look, they can take the time to focus on other things like appreciating the beauty of the salon itself and forming a lasting relationship with their stylist.

And as for Will? He is off on a new adventure. Will doesn’t seem to be the type who will stay settled in one place for long. He has set himself on the path of education and he is hurtling himself down it at breakneck speed. His passion, talent and knowledge, coupled with an incredibly kind-hearted and generous nature, we feel will take him farther than he ever imagined and we look forward to keeping tabs on him along the way. Well, as long as we can keep up!

Mane Salon is located at 1119 W. Grand Avenue in Chicago, IL. You can visit them at their website, HERE.